Deadheading is the secret to keeping your flowers blooming and booming all season long. This technique works on annual and perennial flowering plants to push out more flowers for a beautiful and colorful growing season. All it takes is a little knowledge and a pair of garden shears to get the most out of your flowering plants. And before anyone asks, no, deadheading in gardening has nothing to do with The Grateful Dead—although what music you listen to while you water your flowers is entirely up to you.
What is deadheading a plant?
Deadheading flowers is simply the process of pruning away wilted flowers on your plants in order to encourage more blooms.
What are the benefits of deadheading?
After flowers wilt, your plant begins to direct all its energy into turning those spent blooms into seeds. Propagation is a plant’s primary goal, after all! The downside for flower-loving gardeners is that your plant will slow or entirely stop pushing out new flowers in favor of seed production.
By removing spent flowers, you redirect all your plant’s energy into creating more flowers for another chance to seed. This second bloom is also typically longer lasting than the first. You can continue this process throughout the blooming season to enjoy continual blooms, and regularly deadheaded plants will look fuller and more lush than plants left to seed after their first flowers.
If you’re interested in letting your flowers produce seeds, you can stop deadheading near the end of their growing season and let a last crop of flowers turn into seed heads. This can be useful if you want to collect seeds, let your plant scatter them for regrowth next season, or to feed wildlife.
Which flowers benefit from deadheading?
Deadheading can boost the growth of a wide variety of annuals and perennials. Annuals in particular tend to flourish with regular deadheading and fertilizing for vigorous growth. Here are a few of the plants that will shine with deadheading:
- Bleeding heart
- Bee balm
This is just a start—research the care of your particular plants to see if they are well suited to being trimmed back.
With that being said, there are some plants that don’t respond well to deadheading. Some flowering plants like peonies and most bulbs will only bloom once no matter how much you trim. Most flowering vines also do better without deadheading.
When should you deadhead?
As soon as you see those first flower buds open in the early spring, it’s time to keep those garden shears handy. Watch your garden for the first sign of wilting flowers, because that’s when it’s time to start deadheading. You want to catch these dead flowers well before they turn into dried flowers because that leaves them time to form seeds.
This process of pruning and deadheading keeps going until the end of the growing season when no more new blooms come in, but it doesn’t have to be exhausting. If you set aside time once or twice a week to pay some attention to your flowering plants and trim back any faded flowers, you’ll be basking in new blooms in no time.
HOW do you deadhead?
Ready to hit the garden? All you need is your hands and a pair of pruners—and maybe some protective garden gloves if you’re going to be deadheading roses.
Find a wilting bloom and snip the flower stem below the flower head and near the next full set of leaves. Boom—first one down. Keep deadheading spent flowers until all the dying ones are gone and your plant looks fresh and full of life.
What should you use to deadhead?
Some flower stalks can be pinched off with just your fingers or you can use snips for clean cuts. For woody stemmed plants like rose bushes, make sure you have a hardy set of pruners. Our team loves FELCO pruners and always keeps a pair in our gardener’s toolkit.
With this info under your belt, you’re set to have more blooms than ever this season. Do you have any more questions about pruning your plants? We’d love to help.